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Tip: Help a Service Member Enjoy a Good Smoke

17 Aug 2016

The other day an email landed in my inbox from a U.S. Army captain stationed overseas. He wondered if it would be possible to get some cigars for his soldiers.

Troops PhotoCapt. Justin Foster’s unit, whose mission is providing sophisticated communications support, shipped out about three months ago from its home in the Baltimore area.

“I have many soldiers in my 51-man formation that enjoy a great cigar,” he wrote. “I do like to give care packages as much as possible and send nice things out to the soldiers.”

StogieGuys.com has been pushing for cigar donations to the troops for years. Sometimes it’s reminding readers to check out Cigars for Warriors. Sometimes it’s urging you to assist individual units like Capt. Foster’s. And sometimes we suggest you to contribute to a program at your local shop.

Let’s face it, with considerably fewer troops overseas now than there were in the recent past, there’s not as much attention focused on soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as there was. It’s easy to forget.

But that’s exactly the time they need a boost the most. Their jobs aren’t any easier, their risks any smaller, or their chances to get a good cigar any better.

I asked Capt. Foster if he could send me a photo of some of his troops enjoying a cigar, and he did. They may be sitting at a picnic table, but I don’t think it’s much of a picnic where they are. I’m sure a cigar break is more than welcome.

So, dig into your humidor. I’m sure you can find a few good sticks to send along for inclusion in Capt. Foster’s care packages. The address:

HHC 392ND ESB
CPT Justin Foster
APO AE 09330

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys/Capt. Foster

Cigar Review: Davidoff Colorado Claro Aniversario No. 3

8 Aug 2016

Box

The Short Perfecto in this line is one of my all-time favorite cigars.

UntitledSo, I couldn’t help but approach the larger Aniversario No. 3 with a bit of trepidation. Would this version—a 6-inch, 50-ring gauge toro—have the same pleasing impact?

I’ve smoked a few of the other Colorado Claro vitolas in addition to the Short Perfecto. But with this box of the Aniversario No. 3, it’s the first time I’ve been able to evaluate one on a consistent basis.

Davidoff first released the Colorado Claro in the early 2000s, then brought it back in 2009. It’s something of a spinoff of the Special Series, with its own lovely Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper that Davidoff describes as “a very rare wrapper that makes all the difference in taste.” The binder and filler are from the Dominican Republic, where the cigars are rolled.

Retail price for the Aniversario No. 3 is about $25, and the toro comes packaged in boxes of ten. There are currently five vitolas in the line.

With the many new Davidoff productions in recent years, such as the Winston Churchill, Yamasá, and the soon-to-be-gone Puro d’Oro, the Colorado Claro’s strength no longer stands out as it once did.

What does stand out, however, is the fine balance among the flavors. The cigar begins with a delicate mix of tobacco sweetness and pepper, which holds on through the finish. Along the way, I also found nuts, wood, a bit of coffee, and the occasional note of that typical Davidoff mustiness.

As expected from Davidoff, the basics are first-class: construction, burn, smoke production, and draw were excellent in each of those I smoked.

All in all, it is an excellent cigar, one with the complexity and strength to please a seasoned smoker while remaining accessible to a newcomer.

For myself, I would rate the Aniversario No. 3 just a shade below the Short Perfecto. I believe that compact size and shape combine for a little more punch that sets it apart. Remember, though, I’m talking only a matter of degrees.

And none of that should detract from the Aniversario No. 3. It’s an extraordinary cigar that I rate four and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crux Guild Robusto Extra

3 Aug 2016

Guild 2

Crux, a boutique brand based in Minnesota, continues to bring new cigars to retailers’ shelves. Guild, announced a while back, is among the latest. And among the best.

Crux GuildIt is a full-bodied cigar with a lot of flavor and an opening punch that reminded me of Don José “Pepin” Garcia’s early releases in that it instantly grabs your attention with a spicy start that doesn’t let go.

The blend features an oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that gives off a pre-light barnyard aroma. The binder is Nicaraguan, as are the filler leaves, though Crux offers no further information about their makeup. Like other Crux productions, these are rolled by Plasencia.

All five vitolas come in 20-count boxes with the cigars in four individual five-packs. The 5.25-inch robusto extra, which I smoked courtesy of Crux, is, at 54, the largest ring gauge of the bunch.

Each of the sticks I sampled had a near-perfect burn, excellent draw and lots of smoke production. The Robusto Extra costs $9.50.

This is a balanced and complex smoke that presents a variety of flavors and textures. After the spicy start dials back a bit, a nuttiness comes to the fore. That’s followed by rich cedar and a bit of tea. Other flavors I found included cinnamon, leather, and a sweet tobacco taste.

Crux co-owner Jeff Haugen is serious about the cigar business, which he’s also involved in as a store owner. When I spoke with him after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules came down in May, he was adamant that Crux would continue as a viable company.

He was equally resolute in his determination that Crux will release cigars when they are ready, not according to a timetable dictated by the FDA.

In this case, the wait for Guild was worthwhile. I give this cigar four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger San’Doro Maduro Toro

27 Jul 2016

For quite some time, Villiger, a big player in the machine-made cigar realm, has been attempting to gain a foothold in the premium, hand-rolled market.

VilligerAnd it hasn’t focused solely on sticks on the shelves. The 128-year-old Swiss-based firm blew up its North American operation, named a new president, ended a brief relationship with Sutliff Tobacco, and relocated its U.S. corporate headquarters to suburban Miami. (Hopefully, Villigar will get its “coming soon” website up and running.)

On the tobacco front, Villiger has introduced cigars, such as Trill and Cabareté, that didn’t feature the Villiger name. And it’s tried with cigars that do, like the Villiger San’Doro.

The three-cigar San’Doro line was introduced at last year’s International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Trade Show and began shipping late in 2015. The Maduro comes in a single vitola, a Toro (6 x 50), with an $8.50 price tag. It’s a Brazilian puro that’s also rolled in Villiger’s factory there. (The other two San’Doro lines—Claro and Colorado—are produced for Villiger by Oliva in Nicaragua.)

In a June interview with Cigar Snob, Villiger North America president Rene Castañeda said 2016 production for each of the lines will be about 25,000 for U.S. sales, with a focus on Florida, California, and the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania market.

The San’Doro Maduro features a Mata Fina wrapper, Mata Norte binder, and Mata Fina and Mata Norte filler. I smoked three samples, which were sent to me by Villiger.

The cigar makes a strong first impression, with an oily wrapper and a heavy feel. The denseness made me wary of a tight draw, but that proved not to be the case. The cigars did, however, start with fairly airy smoke that gradually gained substance.

It also burned very slowly, making the six-inch smoke last as long as most cigars an inch or more in length.

Villiger promotes the Maduro as the strongest of the San’Doro lines. I’d put it as medium strength and body.

There are many of the typical Maduro flavors, such as coffee and chocolate. It also has a pleasant mix of sweetness and a little spice, with some nuttiness and some wood and leather. The flavors mix and mingle throughout, keeping it interesting along the way.

If you haven’t tried a Villiger cigar, this is a good place to start. I rate the San’Doro Maduro four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: H. Upmann Ingot The Banker Private Holding

23 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

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This limited edition from Altadis is a standout, far from the stereotype of cigars from an industry’s giant. It’s rich, complex, and nicely balanced with a Criollo ’98 wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Issued in a single size (6 x 54) with 4,500 eight-count boxes shaped like gold bars, the single-stick MSRP is $9.25. I did experience some minor meandering burn issues and a flaky ash, but the spicy, sweet, and shifting flavors more than made up for it.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Daddy Mac Gordo

18 Jul 2016

Daddy MacFor its latest release, Cornelius & Anthony has turned up the heat.

Daddy Mac, named for founder Steven Bailey’s father, is a three-country blend produced at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua.

It makes a nice first impression, with a barnyard aroma on the pre-light wrapper, which is an oily Brazilian Habano. The binder is Ecuadorian and the filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua.

The cigar starts with a pleasing burst of pepper. Then, about an inch in, it begins to mix with wood, leather, and sweetness. While the pepper never backs completely away, it stays in the background until about the final third, when it amps up again.

The Brazilian wrapper seems to add a little something extra to the Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Daddy Mac is decidedly stronger than the Cornelius line I smoked previously. I’d rank the Daddy Mac as a full-strength, full-flavor blend.

Daddy Mac comes in four sizes: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $8.50), Robusto (5 x 52, $9), Toro (6 x 50, $10), and Gordo (6 x 60, $11). Cornelius & Anthony supplied me with two samples of each vitola, and I smoked them all.

Each one performed excellently, with draw, burn, and smoke production first-rate. According to Courtney Smith, Cornelius & Anthony’s director of brand development, the four sizes were blended to have the “same/similar profile,” though she added that ring gauges do account for some differences.

I was surprised to find my favorite was the massive Gordo, a larger cigar than I usually smoke. While I enjoyed all four Daddy Mac vitolas, for my taste, the Gordo was smoother and more balanced than the others. The smaller smokes were just a bit sharper, the flavors not quite as rounded.

Cornelius & Anthony seems to be expanding its reach at a pretty good clip, so don’t be surprised if you spot its cigars at your local B&M. When you do, I recommend Daddy Mac. I give the Gordo four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Espinosa Habano No. 5

17 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Espinosa-Habano

Erik Espinosa announced last year that he was tweaking the blend on his eponymous line, as well as redoing the packaging. The result is well worth checking out: a spicy, flavorful cigar that lets the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper shine with the Nicaraguan binder and filler, all at an everyday price (the three sizes run from $6.75 to $7.50). While not overly complex, there are some flavor shifts as the spice intensity rises and falls a bit, while cedar and a burned coffee notes come and go. Construction and draw are excellent.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Espinosa Cigars